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East meets west

Banshee promises kitchen party vibe at Dubh Linn Gate



Who: Banshee

Where: Dubh Linn Gate Pub

When: Friday, July 2—Sunday, July 4

Key to understanding the boisterous sound of New Brunswick Celtic quintet Banshee is an understanding of that quintessential Maritime tradition, the kitchen party.

Seems back in the day before central heating, when the cold winds blew in off the Atlantic there was no warmer or cozier place in the house than the kitchen. That was where the stove was situated. That was where the wood came in. That was where the cooking was done and that was where the party took place.

Kitchens were big rooms, big enough to accommodate the big families that were de rigeur for the times. Wooden floors were perfect for foot stomping fiddle players and energetic step dancers. Upright pianos were not uncommon sights.

Parlour? What parlour? Everyone was dancing in the kitchen and according to Banshee front woman Shelley Chase they’re still dancing in the kitchen today.

"The music would go on and on and it still does," says Chase. "If we have a kitchen party out here you’ll go through two or three piano players. It’s just a natural gathering place. It’s fun, it’s really fun."

Chase’s quick primer on matters Maritime was at my bidding. As a born-and-raised westerner I was wondering exactly what she meant when she promised Banshee would bring an "authentic kitchen party vibe" to the Dubh Linn Gate Pub for a three night run starting this evening (Friday, July 2).

Now I know. And so do you, fair reader.

If you go looking to give Chase a nod, she’ll be the headstrong lass up front, traditional Irish bodhran drum in hand, alongside her brother and band co-founder Bryon Chase on guitar and touring drummer Brian Talbot. Fiddler Stacey Read and bass player Robin Ann Ettles round out the roster and bring the headstrong lass count to three.

It’s a significant number. Since forming in 2000, the band continues to be a proud purveyor of traditional Celtic fare, but one thing distinctly non-traditional, confirms Chase, is their male to female ratio.

Her position as front woman and principal vocalist is often served up with a spoonful of irony as many of the traditional Celtic tunes they play are written in the voice of salty seafaring men covering the masculine topical trinity of "drinking, fighting and deflowering."

"We’re a pretty energetic group and I don’t like to sing about tripping through the flowers with bonnets on my head," Chase says wryly. "We like to sing driving traditional music that’s really hearty. So we take an interesting approach to it."

Though this weekend will be Banshee’s first time performing in Whistler, the West Coast is closer to home than might appear for a Moncton-based Celtic band.

With a heritage drawing from Irish, Scottish, English and Acadian heritages "with a little Micmac thrown in for good measure" the Chase siblings grew up equally in New Brunswick and Vancouver Island. It was the music that led them east as adults, after considering the Maritimes’ incomparable foundation of resources, festivals and support for Atlantic folk music and heritage studies.

It seems to have been the right decision. In four years, the band has garnered several East Coast Music Award nominations and recently finished recording their third album with members of Newfoundland-based Great Big Sea.

Chase says Banshee’s direction westward this summer is flying in the face of convention since any Celtic band worth its salt never really has to leave the Maritimes to find gigs, especially during festival season.

But here’s to the frontier spirit. This weekend the Maritimes’ loss is Whistler’s gain.

"We’re really looking forward to performing in Whistler," adds Chase, "bringing the authentic East Coast sound to the West Coast. Half of Atlantic Canada is jealous of Banshee’s tour this summer."

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